Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Les Mills Lonestar Event

This is BodyPump!

This weekend, Kel and I attended the Les Mills Lonestar Quarterly in Arlington, TX. It happens a few times a year in different parts of the country, but I have a feeling everything is BIGGER in Texas! The event was a great opportunity for Les Mills instructors, such as Kel and myself, to experience Master Classes in all of the Les Mills formats. If you are unfamiliar with Les Mills, they are the parent company for various amazing group fitness classes, such as BodyAttack and BodyPump, that Kel and I teach. Four times a year they provide us with incredible new choreography and music for our classes! This conference offered us a chance to experience the new choreography live and in the midst of hundreds of others of instructors; it was incredible!
Can you imagine yourself in a room with a few hundred people doing squats at the same time, all to the same beat? It was intense and so very motivating. Almost motivating enough to make me forget how sore my muscles are and that my skin is slightly sore to the touch after two straight days of exercise! haha!
Ready for Pump
Not only am I excited to get started in learning the new BodyPump choreography, but I cannot stop talking about one of the newest Les Mills formats: Sh’Bam! It is a cardio dance class for EVERYONE! Trust me. If I can do can you! Sh’Bam is 45 minutes of a wide mix of dance to both current and old school music favorites. I wish I had video of my leaps because I’m still dreaming about how ‘freeing’ they were. It’s hard to explain, but I walked away from that full of happiness AND knowing that I burned a ton of calories!
After our great intro the Sh’Bam, Kel and I are hoping to learn a lot more about it in the near future! We’ll keep you posted.
Have you been re-energized by something new at the gym? Or anywhere else for that matter? 

~ Samara

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Always Be Prepared

“BE PREPARED!” Is that the motto of the Boy Scouts or Swiss Army Knife? Either way, it’s a good motto. It worked out well for me last night as I was in the right place at the right time... and just so happened that I was prepared.
If any of you are near a local lululemon athletica store, you may know that they are extremely involved in the community. They have a philosophy to share their passion for fitness with the local community through providing free events on a regular basis. My local store has been providing great yoga and boot camp sessions through the month of August. This past Sunday, I enjoyed sweating through the great yoga class provided by D.E.F.I.N.E. body & mind. It was a wonderful mix of movement in yoga to tone your body! Painful, but awesome! :)
So, last night, I planned to enjoy sweating (as I drooled over the apparel) through the boot camp they offered in-store. I arrived at 6 to see the group circled up and I was welcomed with a smile by Nick, lululemon Highland Village’s community outreach chief. He looked at me and said, “well, our bootcamp instructors are no shows.” Nick knows that I teach at the gym across the street, so I offered to put an impromptu class together for the 20+ guests who’d come for the sweat session! Thankfully, I was prepared! I had a boot camp class saved on my iPhone and so asked Nick to take the group on a warm up run, while I modified the class list to work without any equipment! When the group came back ~ nice and sweaty from the short run in the Texas heat ~ we got straight to work and kept the sweat on for 45 minutes!
It felt awesome to be at the right place at the right time, with the right tools! The best part was all of the thank you’s from the grateful guests once we finished the workout! It’s such a great feeling to help energize others to get their sweat on!
So, while I went for one thing, I ended up having the great opportunity to share my passion with others! What a blessing! Have you ever happened to be at the right place at the right time....with the right tools? It’s a great feeling! 
As per lululemon’s motto, go out and do one thing today that scares you!
~ Samara

Things I'm Thankful for Today:
~ Encouragement to step outside my comfort zone
~ Making new friends
~ Rain
~ Karma (good, that is...haha)

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Odwalla Bars to fuel your workout?

“This scrumptious food bar contains Odwalla’s mission of tempting your taste buds and nourishing your body.” That's what the package I wanted to test out how it can nourish my body...
You do NOT want to bonk
45 minutes into teaching BodyPump!
Before we left Miami, we had the privilege of being stocked up on Odwalla bars by Amanda from RunToTheFinish! I have found them to be a great way to fuel me before I teach my BodyPump and Spinning classes. If you begin your day with a tough and sweaty workout then you know how important it is to eat something beforehand. If you are like me, you wake up quickly and rush out the door to your class and don’t actually have time to feel hungry yet before class starts. But I’ve learned the hard way that if I don’t eat before class, about mid-way through, I’m starving at best, and even worse, and more likely, light-headed and drained of energy! None of these are good when you’re the one leading the class! :( 
Grabbing Odwalla before class
But now I use these Odwalla bars to give me just the right amount of energy to lead me through a full class and the ride home! They have many different flavors and each provides it’s own specific benefits. My current favorites are Choco-walla and Chocolate Peanut Butter. The Choco-walla provides me with Vitamins A, C & E, as well as almonds (full of healthy Omega 6 and 9 fatty acids) and the Chocolate Peanut Butter is packed with 12g of protein (yes please, for keeping muscles strong)! At about 200 calories each, they will provide just enough energy to fuel you through your endeavor. If the protein ratio is important to you, stick with the Protein bars as the others range between just 2g and 5g, but otherwise, test a few out and see how they can fuel your body too!

You’ve probably seen the Odwalla fruit juice bottles in the fridge at your local grocer. But head to the energy bar aisle and pick yourself up a bar to see how these can energize you too! You can also check them out on their website to learn more about how they make their products and what they offer:

~ Samara

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Bragg Liquid Aminos

A few weeks ago, I posted a quick breakfast recipe that I finished off with Bragg Liquid Aminos. I wanted to share with you the benefits of these. I actually picked it up a few years ago as an alternative to soy sauce, but then learned of the additional benefits.  
Bragg Liquid Aminos is a liquid protein concentrate that is derived from soybeans and contains both essential and non-essential Amino Acids. So, why do we need amino acids? Well, I never really enjoyed chemistry, so I won’t even try to get deep into this, but the bottom line is our body needs amino acids to function, especially to synthesize proteins and as an energy source. They also build cells and repair tissue...sounds like just what we’re looking for when we are trying to build muscle, right?  Well, there are 8 essential amino acids that we cannot produce on our own and thus need to find them somewhere else...enter Bragg! Bragg Liquid Aminos ensures we are getting 16 Essential and Non-Essential Amino Acids in natural occurring amounts. 
This is specially important for people who are dieting and may not be consuming enough calories or getting the essential amino acids from food choices. So, try out some Bragg Liquid Aminos and see how it affects the way you feel and think daily!
Head over to for free samples from the Bragg line and to learn more about all of their producs. 
Bragg Liquid Aminos comes in several different sized pour bottles or a spray bottle. The spray bottle is nice to finish off any meals, especially salads, with a little flavoring, and, as mentioned before, as substitute for soy sauce or salt. Good to know: it’s gluten free, kosher, and contains no added MSG. You can find it at natural food markets and sometimes in your grocery store. Let me know if you’ve tried it!

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Doing what you love and loving what you do

I was blessed earlier this year to lose my job. Yup, you heard me right, I said blessed. I worked as a government contractor, and, if you’ve ever tried that before, you never quite know if you’ll have a job the next year. For the second time in my life, my company ended up losing the rebid on the work we were doing and so one day I went to work thinking we would be there the next day and when 4:45 came around, I learned that we’d lost and I packed up my stuff and left the building, never to return! Ahh, memories!  Thankfully, with Kel and ME’s encouragement, I’d started expanding my repertoire in 2010. I earned my Personal Trainer cert, then my BodyPump and Spin certs. I then followed up with enough yoga training to get me started in teaching yoga. I immediately started teaching these fitness classes, working it around my 8-5 job (whenever did 9-5 go away, I wonder?). So, when I got laid off in the spring, I just took every single sub class that I was offered. Coincidentally, I had submitted a bid as an independent contractor, to provide services to the gym on the military base teaching Spin and yoga, as well as providing personal training. Conveniently, I won the contract and had two months before we moved to build the program and provide classes to the military service members, their families, and the civilians who support them. 
So, even though I’d lost my income, I was able to at least replace some of it with this increased work. Then, my boss from my contracting job, fought hard to be able to rehire me as a part-time consultant where I can work from home and support the company on projects from time to time. Oh my goodness! Who doesn’t want to be able to work from home? This position now gives me the flexibility to increase my foothold in the fitness industry...just what I wanted.
This brings me to where I am today: working from home when called upon and teaching classes at the gym when I can. I’m working hard to increase my class load and I’ve also looked into various avenues to get more experience in the fitness industry. If any of these pan out, I will let you know, but for now, I’m excited that I’m getting out there and trying new things...that I would have never thought of trying before!

~ Samara

Friday, August 12, 2011

Magazine Crazy (part 2)

As Kel has mentioned previously in Magazine Crazy (now part 1), we love magazines. I have a bad hoarding trait, that I know was transmitted into me as part of my genes from my father. He loves to read and there are always little piles of medical magazines, journals and books surrounding his side of the bed. So, I have to work hard to keep myself from creating these same piles in my home. 

A pile I still have to go through ~
Nope, I'm not perfect...yet! ;)
In part 1, Kel offered a great way to keep and organize magazine clips that you want so you can get rid of the stacks of magazines! Since then, I’ve found another solution that I am head over heels for: the Evernote App.  I downloaded it for my iPhone initially and then learned that I can also access anything I upload via my macbook through either logging into the webpage or downloading the App! I was super gungho about this App when I first learned of it and obsessively started going through my stacks of magazine clippings, taking photos, and uploading to Evernote. What I quickly learned, is that the free App only allows you to upload a certain amount of data per month. When ME saw my excitement for getting organized and the cleansing that this App was providing, he encouraged me to pay the annual fee ($5/mo or $45/yr) - he said it was worth keeping me sane - and probably his house PILE FREE! With the premium service, you can upload 1GB of data per month as well as more benefits. 

The features that I love the most are that I can upload photos and that I can tag files for easy searching later. 
A few of my notes in Evernote
I can take a snapshot of a full magazine page and then scroll around the page in the note to read every little article. I also use it to take pictures of my BodyPump choreography books so I can always have access to my chory for every release without having to lug all the books around! And being able to tag each article about leg exercises, for example, allows me to quickly search new exercises by body part, muscle, type of workout, etc! I’m sure that I’ve only scratched the surface of what this App can do, but I love it already!

I would recommending testing out the free version and seeing if that will work for you for awhile. If you like it, it might just be worth your while to upgrade!
~ Samara

Things I'm Thankful for Today:
~ New work projects I can do from home
~ Filling up the gas tank on my scooter for less than $5
~ New opportunities

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Healthy Breakfast in a (semi) Hurry

Ok, so, we all know breakfast in a HURRY can involve, well, to be honest, nothing - Bad Idea. Other, slightly better-for-us options could include:
  • protein shake
  • protein bar
  • smoothie
  • perhaps some whole lean protein, a piece of fruit, and a handful of nuts (nice quick option)
As I awoke this morning with just enough time to grab a Clif bar and run out the door to teach BodyPump, I left ME and Kel in the kitchen. Kel is always on the go and often eats breakfast at work, but ME was heading off to school and could have used a nice hearty, healthy breakfast! I felt guilty leaving him in the dust to fend for himself when, if I’d just gotten out of bed 10 minutes earlier, I could have given him a nice healthy send off - and Kelly too! (rewind the clock to 6 am when I heard my alarm go off and scrambled eggs with the lean turkey I already have browned sounded just SO HARD to put together!) 
When I returned from the gym, I whipped up an even faster breakfast so that next time I find myself lying in bed with this dilemma, I will choose to be a caring wife who chooses cooking breakfast for her husband over getting 6 more minutes of sleep! (now, don’t let me guilt you here, husbands are just as capable of cooking their own breakfasts, but sometimes, I like to pamper him...but to be fair, he often cooks me breakfast in bed. i.e. YESTERDAY! - now I feel even MORE guilt! ha!)
In about 5-6 minutes, here is what I threw together:
Eggs “Almost” Florentine
2 Eggs, fried over easy
2 Handfuls of raw baby spinach
2 oz. low sodium deli ham, sliced
Braggs Liquid Amino Acids
Cooking spray
Salt and Pepper to taste
Heat a non-stick skillet over medium high heat. Add the spinach and stir occasionally until slightly wilted (If the spinach begins to stick to the pan, add some water or broth to the pan). Place wilted spinach on a plate and season lightly with the Liquid Amino Acids.  Spray the same skillet lightly with cooking spray. Add the ham and stir lightly, then push to the side to continue to heat through as you use the remainder of the pain to fry your eggs.
To plate: Add ham atop spinach, and place the eggs on top. Enjoy!

Yes, that's half-eaten! Don't judge!

Now, if you wanted some carbs for some nice energy, you could be cooking an easy pot of oatmeal at the same time as your Eggs! Again, I was too lazy for that today! ;)

~ Samara

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Back to the Pavement...err..dirt!

Two things of note have occurred this week: ME and I signed up for our first triathlon in a few months and I ran for the first time since my last April!
Race selection first. ME has been itching to get back to, not so much. I’m not sure what’s been the deal, but I haven’t been the most excited about races recently. I think it’s a combination of having to compete in all of the races alone that ME and I had signed up for together last year when he deployed to Haiti for a few months. Then, we’d trained for the Miami ING marathon this January and two weeks before the race, I flared up with plantar fasciitis and was unable to race. Then, again, we signed up for the Nautica SoBE tri because ME wanted to and, yet again, the Army called and I got to compete by myself (although thankfully a great friend competed as well, so I wasn’t alone). So, I really do enjoy competing in triathlons and running races, but I was just burnt out a little bit. But, I’m feeling ready to get back on track and so ME and I signed up for the Houston Triathlon on 23 Sep. 
ME and I ready to go
With that decision, it’s now time to start focusing our training on swimming, biking, and running again! Yesterday, our friend Amanda at RunToTheFinish, posted a great note about how we all GET to run. So, when ME suited up for a run on the hottest (as of that time) day of the year to run out at Memorial Park, I took her motivation and threw on my skirt (why run in anything else?) and hopped on the back of the scooter and we explored Memorial Park. It only took us 30 minutes of running in the shade of wonderful trees and up unfamiliar hills (c’mon, we’ve been in Miami for 2 years!) to realize we were actually running on the mountain biking trail! But, we now know where all the runners are and we’ll hit them up next time we get the urge to venture out.
Trying to get motivated for the run.
Having not run, except the 10k in the tri, in about 8 months, I felt like a rookie, I couldn’t get my ipod to track my run, then couldn’t find a comfortable spot for my ipod to attach, and my headphones kept falling out and/or I was getting tangled in the cord! But, we managed to have a great run and enjoy the day and the scenery (and maybe even those nasty hills). I won’t say it felt great, but it felt decent and I won’t be so afraid of getting out there anymore for fear of the PF flaring up again.

What motivates you to get out and exercise or train? Is anything currently holding you back?

Beat the Heat and get out there and exercise...and don't forget to rehydrate!

~ Samara
Things I’m Thankful for Today:
~ Exercise for the fun of it
~ Crafty solutions for the satellite dish
~ New ideas to save $$
~ Multi-national style dinners that actually come together

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

D-Lightful Vitamin D

Yesterday, I’d mentioned how my Dad, Dr. B, has been a great example of supporting a healthy diet with vitamins and supplements. One that he has been consistently encouraging me to take is vitamin D. Being a psychiatrist and practicing in the sometimes grey state of Washington, he personally sees the difference that supplementing your diet with vitamin D can offer. 
You most likely know from all of those milk commercials that D will build strong bones and teeth! But, ensuring you have enough D in your diet can also support your immune system and breast health, colon and pancreas health. And, as Dr. B touts, check out this article on how vitamin D can also be a contributing factor to reduce the risk of depression and increase quality of life.
We always would prefer to get our vitamin D from natural food sources, such as eggs and fish. My second favorite way is SUN! But sometimes you’re busy and can’t even get that daily 20 mins in; and maybe fish and eggs or milk aren’t on your menu today. So a great way to ensure you do get enough is to add it to your supplement list. 
These are a few options we have in our pantry currently.
Of course, consult your physician before you add anything to your diet, as well as to determine what the appropriate level of vitamin D is for your specific needs.
~ Samara
Things I’m Thankful for Today:
~ Finding the desire to race and train again
~ Indirect motivation from your friends
~ More students in my morning BodyPump classes
~ Getting rewarded for procrastination, yet again! ;P

Monday, August 1, 2011

What do you have for dessert?

Just half of our supplement supply

So, I got your attention with tasty dessert. :) But that’s not what we chase our meals with (normally, that is...we do on refeed days!). Regularly, we chase our meals with vitamins and supplements. 
My Dad has always served as a good example of taking vitamins and staying current with the latest research on what our bodies need. My Mom would confirm that I’m not always the fastest learner, especially as she saw the box full of supplement bottles that they’d sent me while at West Point, come straight back home with me upon graduation. I’ve come a long way since then. I’m not perfect, I don’t always remember to take what I mean to, however, I try hard to take them as often as possible. The next few days, we’ll be discussing a few of the vitamins and supplements that we take and why we do.
Today’s is my current favorite: probiotics. I was slow to join the bandwagon on probiotics because I’ve always been, well, to be blunt, pretty regular. But, when you cleaned up your eating habits, you might have noticed that you could get a little backed up. Probiotics have been essential to getting me back to regular. ;) You’ve probably seen all the commercials about them, but if you’re like me, you weren’t really paying attention.
Probiotics are live microorganisms, sometimes good bacteria, that can help to regulate the digestive system. We take them regularly with every meal to assist with this. 
Here is what is stated on the bottle we’re using currently: “Acidophilus supports a favorable environment of nutrients, encouraging intestinal microflora balance, and promotes the healthy functioning of the intestinal and digestive systems.” You can encourage my microflora balance any day! You can find probiotics naturally occurring in some foods, you probably all know it’s in yogurt, thanks to Jamie Lee Curtis.

There are claims that probiotics have many benefits, so it is important to research them for yourself before you add them to your diet. And, as with anything you’d put in your body, take a look at the possible side effects and it’s always recommended that you consult your personal physician before changing your diet or supplements.
With that said, let us know how you take your probiotics; pill, yogurt, kefir, anything else?